Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Robinson’s Rescues

 

This is about a World War II Navy Chaplain, Charles Robinson, who helped free the first Allied POWs in Japan. I’m posting this on Ricochet partly because I was irritated by the recently discovered comments by the Democrat candidate Raphael Warnock in the Georgia special election for Senate, who orated from the pulpit that people cannot serve the military and God. I didn’t find this to be true during my Navy career, whether one was serving as a Chaplain or just an adherent of a religion. Some of the people I respected the most were men of the cloth and I still value their friendship and the time we served together.

The essay is unrelated to the politics of the moment, so if you’d like a break from news about the election, the essay is safe to read. I doubt any of you have heard about Father Robinson, but his story is one that is worthy of sharing and, I believe, undercuts the narrative that Reverend Warnock peddles. Father Robinson pursued studies in theology that led him to become a Jesuit Priest almost 100 years ago, and he went overseas to Japan for his first posting. What he learned while in Japan ended up helping hundreds of prisoners of war in the Tokyo area who had been tortured or were starving at the end of the war.

The full essay is based on a research project for a history class I completed earlier this year. The professor described how Father Robinson had accomplished a mission of mercy for the Jesuits at the Jesuit Sophia University in Tokyo, and due to my Navy background, she suggested I research it for the term paper. My research determined that he had done a lot more of consequence before his rescue mission to Sophia. At the war’s end, he was stationed onboard the Battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), which arrived at the entrance to Tokyo Bay a few days before it would host the surrender ceremony on 2 September 1945. Of the tens of thousands of sailors who came to Tokyo Bay and were present for the surrender ceremony, Father Robinson had a skill that ended up being critical for rescuing hundreds of prisoners of war (POW) languishing in Japan’s numerous POW camps. He used his knowledge and abilities with distinction, in ways that helped smooth the process of quickly freeing the first group of POWs and saving other lives.

The essay is posted online as a webpage at this link. I was surprised by some of the information and photos I was able to find and the essay includes many photos. I’m interested in your thoughts on the essay and Father Robinson’s accomplishments. If anyone has knowledge of other things he accomplished during his lifetime, I’d love to hear about it. Although the archivists were very supportive, the Jesuit archives were able to provide a surprisingly limited amount of information about his life story.

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  1. EODmom Coolidge

    Thank you – when there is so much talk about the evils of masculinity, you write of how dedicated men do hard transformative work. Thank you for this. 

    • #1
    • November 29, 2020, at 7:08 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Thank you so much for honoring Chaplain Robinson. To serve not only as a religious leader, but also in our military made him a very special man in my eyes. 

    • #2
    • November 29, 2020, at 7:30 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  3. The Reticulator Member

    Your essay is nicely organized and very readable. Thank you for presenting this history. 

    • #3
    • November 29, 2020, at 8:19 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Doug Watt Moderator

    Thank you for the link to your essay. The 20th Century chaplains that earned the Medal of Honor were all Catholic priests.

    Lt. Cmdr Joseph Timothy O’Callahan, May 14, 1905 – March 18, 1964: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as chaplain on board the U.S.S. Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft during offensive operations near Kobe, Japan, on 19 March 1945. A valiant and forceful leader, calmly braving the perilous barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship, Lt. Comdr. O’Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the open flight deck and into the midst of violently exploding bombs, shells, rockets, and other armament. With the ship rocked by incessant explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in ever-increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts, despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled others who replaced them. Serving with courage, fortitude, and deep spiritual strength, Lt. Cmdr. O’Callahan inspired the gallant officers and men of the Franklin to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port.

    See the source image

    • #4
    • November 29, 2020, at 8:50 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  5. Skyler Coolidge

    Although I am a staunch atheist, I am very much in favor of having navy chaplains. One reason is because they are often very funny people. Sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for bad, but nearly always entertaining.

    Primarily though, it’s because anything that helps my Marines be better killers is good. If they need to believe that someone besides their country, or their family is worth killing for, then I’m all for it.

    • #5
    • November 29, 2020, at 1:24 PM PST
    • Like
  6. Tedley Member
    Tedley

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Thank you for the link to your essay. The 20th Century chaplains that earned the Medal of Honor were all Catholic priests.

    Lt. Cmdr Joseph Timothy O’Callahan, May 14, 1905 – March 18, 1964: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as chaplain on board the U.S.S. Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft during offensive operations near Kobe, Japan, on 19 March 1945. A valiant and forceful leader, calmly braving the perilous barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship, Lt. Comdr. O’Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the open flight deck and into the midst of violently exploding bombs, shells, rockets, and other armament. With the ship rocked by incessant explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in ever-increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts, despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled others who replaced them. Serving with courage, fortitude, and deep spiritual strength, Lt. Cmdr. O’Callahan inspired the gallant officers and men of the Franklin to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port.

    See the source image

    Excellent video, thanks for sharing!

    • #6
    • November 29, 2020, at 6:54 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. Tedley Member
    Tedley

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Although I am a staunch atheist, I am very much in favor of having navy chaplains. One reason is because they are often very funny people. Sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for bad, but nearly always entertaining.

    Primarily though, it’s because anything that helps my Marines be better killers is good. If they need to believe that someone besides their country, or their family is worth killing for, then I’m all for it.

    I always found chaplains to be open to discuss any topic with anyone, whether the person was a believer or not. You’re right, if it helps people deal with PTSD or simple loneliness due to being away from home and family, they provide an important contribution which helps military units to succeed at their missions. 

    • #7
    • November 29, 2020, at 6:59 PM PST
    • 1 like
  8. Tedley Member
    Tedley

    EODmom (View Comment):

    Thank you – when there is so much talk about the evils of masculinity, you write of how dedicated men do hard transformative work. Thank you for this.

    That’s a valuable observation, thanks. 

    • #8
    • November 29, 2020, at 7:00 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. Tedley Member
    Tedley

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Your essay is nicely organized and very readable. Thank you for presenting this history.

    You’re welcome! I appreciate your positive comment!

    • #9
    • November 29, 2020, at 7:02 PM PST
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.